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Michigan State 79, Penn State 71: A Tough Senior Night For The Lions

It wasn’t the finish that the home crowd wanted, but Penn State fought into the final minute.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions lost a tough game at home after leading by as many as 19 points. The Spartans led by 10 in the second half but Pat Chambers’ team continued to fight. It was a one-possession game in the closing minutes but Michigan State was able to hold on. Penn State will have a chance to tie its all-time record 12 Big Ten conference regular season wins against Northwestern.

Penn State came out hot, getting two dunks on passes from Jamari Wheeler to Mike Watkins and also a 3-point shot from Wheeler. They lost some steam over the next few minutes, missing 10 straight shots. A 3-point shot by Myles Dread broke the drought and Myreon Jones hit one on the next trip down the court to give the Lions an early 22-13 lead. Jones hit another deep ball, forcing Tom Izzo to call a timeout with 10:23 to go before halftime, trailing on the road by 12.

Seth Lundy answered a Spartan 3-pointer and then Myreon Jones hit another to build the lead to 15. The Lions were 7 of their first 10 from behind the arc. The defense was leading to scoring opportunities as well. This block by Lamar Stevens came sandwiched between two Myles Dread deep balls and the lead got as large as 19 with 5 minutes to play before the half.

Stevens hit a pair of free throws, his only points of the half, with 4 minutes on the clock and his team leading 41-22. He struggled in the first half, going 0 for 9 from the field while missing several shots that he would normally make. He did have 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks, so it was not as though he was hurting the team, the ball just wasn’t going in the hoop for him.

Pat Chambers called a timeout when Michigan State cut the lead to 13, hoping to hold a sizable lead at the half. It got as tight as 11 before Myreon Jones hit a 3-pointer to get some breathing room. On the final possession, Mike Watkins got the rebound then ran the length of the floor for a nice finish. He was playing free and loose.

Watkins had 8 points and 8 rebounds and just one foul at the half and the Lions led 46-31.

Michigan State scored the first 7 points coming out of the half and Pat Chambers was forced to call timeout just two minutes in. Finally Myreon Jones hit a runner in the lane to end the run after the Spartans cut the lead to 6.

Mike Watkins picked up his 3rd foul with 16 minutes to go and on the next possession the Spartans hit a shot, then followed it up with a 3-pointer, tying the game at 49. Michigan State led by 6 with Lamar Stevens sitting on the bench a couple of minutes later. It was a 24-3 run.

Lamar Stevens hit his first field goal of the night with 12 minutes to play and then fed Mike Watkins for a dunk on the next trip to cut the lead to 57-53. The Spartans got the lead to 10 with 9 minutes to play and Watkins hit a pair of free throws to slow the run. Lamar Stevens had a dunk and a free throw shortly after to cut it to 5, getting the crowd back in the game.

The Lions forced a ten second call before the Spartans could cross half-court, then Stevens hit a shot to cut it to 3 with 8:02 to go. It was a 4-point game with 5 minutes on the clock when John Harrar tipped a ball in. Harrar hit another shot to cut the game to 68-66 with 4:34 to go.

It was a 3-point game with 3 minutes to play. The Spartans built a 6-point lead but Lamar Stevens hit two free throws to cut it to 74-70 with just over a minute to play. Penn State appeared to get a stop but the referees went to the monitor and gave the ball back to the Spartans, all but ending a chance for a clean comeback.

The fans inside the Bryce Jordan Center did not like the call and Cassius Winston hit a runner to ice the game a few seconds later. Penn State was forced to foul to try to get back in the game, but it didn’t pay off.

Random Thoughts

  • Myreon Jones was 4 for 4 from behind the arc in the first half and he looked comfortable again. He added 3 assists at the half and his 12 points made it easier for the Lions to overcome a slow start by Lamar Stevens.
  • Mike Watkins got the start for the first time in 13 games and he played well. He and John Harrar combined for 12 points, 12 rebounds and only had 2 fouls between them through the first 20 minutes.
  • While the story of the game for some people will be that the Lions lost a 19 point lead and trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half, it was a very good game. With less than 3 minutes to play it was a one-possession game. The Spartans are now tied with Maryland for first place in the Big Ten, the best conference in the country this year.

Up Next

The Lions will travel to Northwestern for the final regular season contest on Saturday. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network at 4 p.m. The Wildcats will be playing for pride on Senior Day and the Lions will be playing for conference and national positioning in the post-season tournaments.

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